By Dom Cioffi
On Dec. 19, 2006, a young Swedish high school student named Felix Kjellberg registered a YouTube channel, uploading occasional short videos not unlike thousands of other early users. His interest was sporadic and purely for fun and entertainment; he never dreamed he would eventually become a worldwide Internet sensation.
A few years later, while studying at Chalmers University of Technology, Kjellberg’s interest in YouTube was reignited so he decided to create some new content. Unfortunately, he had forgotten his channel’s password so he had to register a new account, which he did on April 29, 2010.
He named his new channel “PewDiePie” (“pew” = the sound a laser makes; “die” = what the laser does to its targets; “pie” because he really liked pie).
Sometime later, he uploaded a two-minute video of him commentating while playing Minecraft, the popular sandbox video game that allows users to go on adventures and build things. It was wholly uninspiring and completely forgettable.
But the die was cast.
Soon after, Felix Kjellberg dropped out of Chalmers, not because of bad grades, but because he found the curriculum boring and wanted to follow his online interests. His parent’s were disgusted by his decision, especially when they discovered that he was selling hot dogs in order to survive.
Kjellberg’s new plan was to create content for his YouTube channel, hoping he could potentially attract advertising revenue.
Within half a year, Felix Kjellberg had uploaded 100 videos of him playing various video games. At that time, he had 2,500 subscribers. Up until this point, he was a mystery, having never showed his face in his videos. That would change very soon.
A year and a half later, in July of 2012, the PewDiePie Channel hit the one million subscriber milestone.
A few months later, in September, it hit two million subscribers. By February 2013, the channel had five million subscribers.
Later in the year he would amass 10 million subscribers and become the most popular YouTube channel in history.
By 2017, the channel was at the 50 million subscribers mark, allowing Felix Kjellberg’s annual income to top $15 million.
Like any good businessman, Felix has now branched out with new content on new channels. He’s even raised millions of dollars for various charities. However, with mass fame has come a reciprocal backlash. On several occasions, Kjellberg has been socially chastised for inappropriate and insensitive comments.
After watching a PewDiePie video, anyone over the age of 35 would find themselves completely confused. I am admittedly one of these individuals. I have watched numerous videos and while I can attest to his unique approach and creative humor in commentary, I simply have no interest in watching someone else play a video game.
However, if you are a video game developer, Kjellberg represents the golden touch. If he plays your game in one of his videos and likes it, it can have the same effect as Oprah has on books.
I had never heard of PewDiePie until a few months ago when I found my son laughing hysterically at his iPad. When I inquired what was so funny, he clued me in. I was admittedly intrigued, so I did some research. I was dumbfounded when I uncovered the level of popularity and success that Kjellberg was enjoying simply from talking while playing a video game.
Kjellberg’s success has spawned numerous copycats who have also found Internet fame and fortune. However, it is Kjellberg’s unique voice that makes him the best. He is the LeBron James of the social media world found on YouTube. And don’t be surprised if Kjellberg ultimately begins producing bigger and bigger projects. His popularity makes him of great interest for people looking to tap into the Millennial market, of which he is a god.
This week’s film, “Their Finest,” also features content creators, except these individuals were staring down the barrel of World War II and looking for a way to ignite the Allied population’s interest in winning.
Set in England during the 1940s, “Their Finest” chronicles a group of filmmakers who are tasked by the government to make a propaganda film that would rejuvenate the public’s interest in winning the war. It is also a touching love story about two writers who work on the film as they spend day after day writing copy they hope will inspire the masses.
This is a wonderful period piece that will appeal to serious moviegoers who love powerful acting and well written dialogue. It is short on action, but long on intrigue—and tinged with that loveable British humor.
A bombastic “B” for “Their Finest.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]